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Chief: Squatters ‘trying to keep warm’ set fire to Hempstead house

Firefighters extinguish a blaze on Grove Street in

Firefighters extinguish a blaze on Grove Street in Hempstead early Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017. Credit: Kevin Madigan

Squatters trying to stay warm in a vacant house in Hempstead during Wednesday morning’s frigid weather caused a fire that severely damaged the second floor, an official said.

There were no injuries.

Hempstead Village Fire Chief Fred Sandas Jr. said there were homeless people living in the one-family, two-story wood-frame house on Grove Street who had apparently started a fire of some type “to keep warm.”

Sandas said firefighters responded to the scene at about 3:30 a.m. but anyone who had been inside the house had gotten out before then.

“There was heavy fire in a second-floor bedroom when we arrived — it was where homeless people were living and they were trying to keep warm,” Sandas said.

There was no electricity for a heater or heat, Sandas said, so “they probably burned something.”

The chief added it was evident people had been staying at the house because there were mattresses on the second floor and “shopping carts around.”

Sandas said the fire spread throughout the second floor and that the blaze remains under investigation.

It was 23 degrees in the Hempstead area at the time of the fire, according to Carlie Buccola, a spokeswoman for the National Weather Service at Upton, adding, “but the wind chill was 7.”

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